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Copyright 1998 by the authors and PEACE. All materials are the intellectual property of the respective contributors. Unless noted otherwise, they may be reproduced provided that credit is given to the authors, and to PEACE - a Mid-East Dialog Group. Email/Web postings should include these addresses:
Ami Isseroff;
Ameen Hannoun;
Mid East Viewpoints:


July, 31, 1998

Oslo again - Personal views


Is Oslo a Viable Alternative? - Israel  Bar Ilan

No Alternative - Ami Isseroff

My Peace - Ami Isseroff

    Expectations - Seri Gomberg

Insight - Firhas   Attalah Rabi

Jerusalem  - Sa'ida Nusseibeh

Is Oslo a Viable Alternative? - Israel  Bar Ilan

There's an old joke about a Jew who is searching frantically in the area next to a lighted lamp post.  When asked what he is looking for, the Jew replies "I've lost my keys".   "Where did you lose them?" he is asked, and the Jew points to the other side of the street.  "Then why aren't you looking for your keys where you've lost them?"  To which the Jew replies "It's dark there and I won't be able to find anything".

The total rejectionist attitude of members of the pro Oslo camp towards any proposed alternative to their way keeps reminding me of this joke.  A common denominator to all the objections to any proposed solution that not take for granted the Arab interpretation of the Oslo accords is an argument like "it won't work", "it has no chance of success", "no one will agree to it", "you can't do it" or some similar statement.  I have yet to see someone addressing seriously the issues raised in any such proposed solution, or presenting some logical arguments to refute the contentions of that proposed solution (unless of course you regard name calling or derisory remarks as logical arguments).  This attitude is more than evident in the series of reactions to Lerner's article that has
appeared in the Peace Forum.

Using the likelihood of its success as a criterion whether to accept or reject a proposed solution has certain merits.  Using it as the SOLE CRITERION, however, is totally wrong and brings one back into the realm of the joke.  It is certainly not a valid excuse for not even trying it, since in fact until you try it you don't really know whether it will be a success or not!

As an aside, the solution proposed under the guise of the Oslo process has actually already been tried - with a few minor changes it is essentially the partition plan as approved by the UN (and totally rejected at the time by the Arab side) in 1947.  I doubt whether even the most ardent supporters of the Oslo process would call it a "success". Why try it again?  "The Arabs have changed, they have a different attitude now and it will be a success this time" we are being told. Well,
I have my doubts about that.  I may be a paranoid, but somehow I find it difficult to disregard the fact that the Palestinian Covenant is still in force and unmodified (almost 5 years after Sep. 1993 ceremony on the lawn of the White House), the constant insistence on the "right of return" or the almost daily incitement calling on the masses to carry on with the holy war against Israel .  I refuse to regard it as "just semantics" of no consequence, particularly since they emanate from central
figures in the Arab side (including Arafat himself), and - as we frequently are being told - not from non-entities.

Coming back to the question as to whether to accept or reject a proposed solution solely on the basis of its likelihood to succeed, there two good reasons why this is the wrong approach to the present stalemate.

First, I strongly suspect that within the context of the Israeli Arab conflict the term "success" is a euphemism for "being acceptable to the Arab side".   Looking at it from this perspective, I doubt whether the solution of the Oslo process as envisaged by the pro Oslo camp in Israel is more likely to be a "success" than the one proposed by Aaron Lerner.

Second, history has shown us that nothing is permanent and what may be "unacceptable" or "without any chance of becoming a success" one day, may become a glorious success the next. For almost thirty years we were led to believe that the Arab side will never accept "peace" with Israel and that any solution or "arrangement" that requires "peace" is doomed to failure. Thus the very use of the word "peace" was taboo in all our contacts with the Arab side.
In fact, it was regarded as a four letter word.  All sorts of semantic gymnastics have been developed to avoid the noun "peace" - Peres used the term "fig leaf" to justify this never ending acquiescing to the Arab whims.  And then came Begin and with his intransigence changed the rules of the game.  And suddenly, lo and
behold, the word "peace" regained its legitimacy.  The rest is history.

I could actually state it more cynically:  It took the Arab side 50 years to accept the UN partition plan of 1947 (or, if you prefer, 30 years to accept the June1967 borders).  All we have to do now is wait patiently for a similar period of time and they will eventually accept today's reality.


No Alternative - Ami Isserof

Israel, the challenge I put to you was the same as the one I put to Noam Chomsky. 'If you don't like Oslo, propose a viable alternative to Oslo.' You did not answer that question. Not directly. You just reiterated your objections to the Oslo agreements.

I do not think that reactions to Lerner's proposals were limited to 'name calling and derisory remarks.' People tried to explain to him that a 'state' with about 200 square miles of territory scattered in little islands and a population of 4 million is hardly a reasonable solution.

You gave some hints though, of what could be an acceptable solution to you. You say that Begin's intrasigence produced the Egyptian peace accords. Very well. Let us make a settlement based on the same 'intrasigence' with the Palestinians. Namely, Israel will return to the Palestinians all of the lands occupied since 1967, just as Begin did for the Egyptians. That is what made the peace with Egypt. Just as what prevented the peace with Egypt under the Labor governments was the certainty that Begin would oppose, and did oppose, giving back even one
centimeter of land.

You say that the chances of success for a solution should not be a criterion for judging it. Very well, let us try Chomsky's binational state.

Finally, you say, let us wait 30 years until the Arabs accept today's reality. You are more generous than I am. I want to give the Palestinians about 20% of the land of Israel. You want to give them all of it. For in thirty years the Palestinians will almost certainly be more numerous than we are. And then, with or without the democratic process, they will inevitably become masters. They will expropriate our land, and build settlements on it for their refugees. They will demolish our 'illegal' houses.

In summary, you have proven my contention. For Israel, there is no alternative to a negotiated peace based on a two-state solution. And it had best be done now, because in thirty years that alternative may not be open to us.

Remember, Israel, that in Hebrew 'No Alternative' is 'Ein Breira.' When there is no alternative, we do what we must do.


My Peace - Ami Isseroff

In the heat of  argument and counter-argument, we lose sight of what issue is at stake, and what we are fighting for. Peace is in the distant future, and people have trouble visualizing that which is not part of their lives. But at least now we have a little bit of the peace. We can taste the future, and perhaps imagine the rest:

Peace is hearing the announcer on Jordanian television say 'Israel' instead of the Zionist entity.

Peace is Israeli pilots being rescued by Palestinians.

Peace is mailing a letter to Amman and visting Aqaba and Petra.

Peace is King Hussein in Jerusalem, at Rabin's funeral.

Peace will mean going to Jenin or Tulkarem and looking people in the eye, just as Frenchman do when they go to London or Belgians do when they go to Paris.

Peace will mean watching soccer matches between Palestinian and Israeli teams.

Peace will mean spending money to eradicate poverty and advance science, instead of wasting it on weapons and subsidized settlements.

Peace will mean healing of the wounds between ourselves and our neighbors - Israeli and Palestinian.

Peace will mean Israel and Palestine side by side, like the U.S. and Canada.

Peace will mean Syrians and Lebanese studying medicine at Hadassah.

Peace will mean Israelis studying Arabic in Damascus.

Peace will mean traveling to Turkey by train.

Peace will mean no more refugee camps, no more terrorists, no more martyrs, no more guilty secrets on either side.

Expectations - Seri Gomberg

My expectations from peace are first and foremost the end of violence and hopefully a beginning of mutual respect for everyone in the Middle East. Since Israel cannot achieve this within its own Jewish population, maybe this goal is not achievable in the foreseeable future.

I hope that a by-product of the end of violence will be cooperation - mainly economic - to achieve stability and prosperity for everyone in the region.

In my mind everything else that is needed to improve our lives here will follow the security and prosperity.


Insight - Firhas   Attalah Rabi

We are brought up to think of matters in a "logical" way. If someting is hot, don't touch it. If something hurts, don't do it again. If something tastes good, eat more of it. Unless you were a sado-masochist, your parents rarely had to tell you more than once about something that was harmful to you. Even a child's mind could comprehend that it was not in his best interest to drink clorox, walk into a bee-hive, or stick his finger in the electric socket. We may have been warned about it before we tried it, but in general what didn't kill us simply made us more
aware. My little sister once toasted her arm on a BBQ, and to this day, seven years later, she won't even eat BBQed meat. Logic. It may have been overdone in this case, but nevertheless I know she will never cook herself over a BBQ.

It is this primal form of logic that seems to be missing from the political leaders of our region.

Children die.
Children DIE.
CHILDREN DIE. How many times does this have to happen before one of our leaders realizes he is doing something wrong ?
Mothers die.
Mothers DIE.
MOTHERS DIE. Is it that easy to overlook how decisions made in that political meeting room simply lead to more death.
Men are tortured.
TORTURED TO DEATH. What sort of logic makes that legal ?

I don't understand. But then again, how could I ? I'm just a simple person who knows better than to pet a scorpion.


Jerusalem  - Sa'ida Nusseibeh

It is strange to write about the place where I grew up. The history I was taught of that place was a history of many battles and bloodshed. Yt they call it the Holy City. If only the walls could talk, –how many sad stories would they tell? Stories about nations that came as conquerors, and left many dead behind. They came
with the intention of liberating the town. And they used whatever excuse - including religion. And if you ask millions of people to go down on their knees to scrub the stones of the pavements in Jerusalem, you can not wipe out the blood of its children - the Children of Abraham, that have been sacrificed on the alter to satisfy the ego of the conquerors.

Shall I write about the history of the place as we were taught it, and what we were taught?

We were taught about the chronology of Jerusalem, the successive rulers of Jerusalem- The Canaanites, the Philistines, the Israelites, Babylonian, Persians Greeks, Jews, Pagan Roman, Christians, Arabs, Turks, then with Christians, Muslims and Jews during the British Mandate, then Jerusalem was split-two
ways- Israel- Jordan, and now it has two nations- Israelis and Palestinians living under one roof.

Although the wall between the two sides has fallen now, the barrier of the wall of mistrust, fear, is very high.

We were also taught what the place meant to Three Monotheistic Faiths.

All that we were taught. We were taught about the Jewish holy places and the Christian Holy places and the Muslim holy places, and why Jerusalem is sacred to each faith. We were taught that the Jews are the children of Abraham and Sarah, and  we are the children of Abraham and Haggar; hence we are  cousins.  We were taught about who the Jewish people are in relation to the Holy City. Yet we were not taught about their suffering. We were not taught about Masada, about what the Jewish nation had to endure during their dispersions, about the ghettos they had to live in, or about the pogroms and the Holocaust. -We were taught history of the world- but not the history of our cousins -the tragic history of the Jewish Nation. We only were taught about our own people's dispersion,
about the massacre of Dir Yassin, and the destruction of villages like Yallo, Eimous and Beit Nuba.

I grew up in East Jerusalem- the city was like a village for the capacity of the people to all know each others and interfere in each others' business.

My family has a rented house where I grew up. I believe the old house that once belonged to them was in West Jerusalem. Our home is situated on the green line. As a child I could see people, from afar on the other side walking around - I was told these are the Israelis.

My friends were a mix of nations- and I could hear some of my friends talking about going to Tel Aviv, to West Jerusalem, where there were sidewalk cafes, and in my mind I compared it with places in Europe. And sometimes through the windows in our home, I could hear the old men reminiscing while sitting in the garden sipping coffee, smoking the Nargilah (water pipe)  talking about their youth- In Tel Aviv’s nightclubs. So Tel Aviv in my childhood brain was a fun place.

I was fascinated by what my friends said about the life on the ‘other’ side- and always looked forward when they did their shopping to compare it with what one could get in East Jerusalem. But I was too busy growing up, studying and thinking of fashion and all those things that teenagers think about.

After the 1967 war, I went to visit my home in Jerusalem. - I hired a car and drove around Israel. I went down memory lane, not mine but my family's. I traveled to visit the family's memories- my mother’s home, where she grew up in Ramlah. My aunt ‘s in Jaffa, where she use to sit and write poetry under her orange tree in
her garden - and many other places the family spoke about- It was fun, but I was only a tourist, and my visit to these places was a glimpse at the memory of what the family spoke about.

Every time I visit East Jerusalem I find it changed. I hear the sadness in people;s voices when they declare that their culture and heritage is being wiped away. They are afraid that in time, there will be no more signs to say  that they belong to the land, and that they lived here once upon a time.

Perhaps features of the city change, but people keep their heritage and culture. How can I reassure them of that? How can I reassure them that the blood of their children is more important than the stones?

Many institutes and organizations sat down to write what they envisage as the future of Jerusalem. They looked at printed plans and maps and decided where everything should be. All on paper, all without feelings, all being highly intellectual, all highly professional- everything well calculated to the last inch. They beamed with satisfaction- they shook hands. Every one had solved the problem. I attended such a conference- I looked at the map – looked at what they are talking about, the water distribution, the sewage and so on. Maybe they are practical, but I wonder if they ever took the time, to go and ask the people in the streets in West
and East Jerusalem, if are they happy about those plans?

Can we look forward to a Jerusalem, where 'Holy' means the life of the people is holy- the life of the Children of Abraham is Holy. Will we have the courage to stand up and stop the bloodshed? Then the city can deserve its names –Jerusalem, City of Peace, Kuds Al-Sharif - The Most Holy.



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